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Wine Globalization: A New Comparative History

Editor(s):Anderson, Kym
Pinilla, Vicente
Reviewer(s):Nye, John V. C.

Published by EH.Net (January 2019)

Kym Anderson and Vicente Pinilla, editors, Wine Globalization: A New Comparative History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. xxx + 546 pp. $155 (hardcover), ISBN: 978-1-107-19292-8.

Reviewed for EH.Net by John V. C. Nye, Department of Economics, George Mason University and NRU-Higher School of Economics (Moscow).

 
What kinds of wine do people consume and how has that changed over the last two centuries?

This work is a series of essays that serve as a collective overview of how wine has become a global commodity, increasingly consumed by the middle class around the world while declining or stagnating as a common beverage in the nations that were most committed to it.

It is a story of regulation and taxation interacted with taste trends and a shift in global trade that are facilitating a more similar (if still divergent) pattern of alcohol consumption in both East and West than at any time before.

The book begins with a broad introduction and overview by editors Kym Anderson and Vicente Padilla. This is followed by two groups of essays – the first focusing on the traditional producers and markets in Europe and the Mediterranean; the second focusing on the growth of wine production and consumption in the rest of the world with special emphasis on the rise of wine produced and exported from Australia, South America, and the United States. These touch on both the rise of a global supply market in wine but also the increase in consumption of grape wine even in traditionally non-wine drinking areas of Asia and other emerging regions. The final section is a modest projection of wine trends into the near future with discussion of how the evolution of this global market for winemaking and wine-drinking will continue.

The most interesting aspect is how just three countries — France, Spain, and Italy — constituted the bulk of wine production well into the middle half of the nineteenth century and remained quite dominant till the early twentieth. Despite the entry of many new producers and in particular, wines from the New World, it was not until 2006 that these three nations’ wines fell below a 50 percent share of world output. They were also the world’s largest consumers of such wines until the 1860s. So the history of globalization is a rise in both the diversity of competitive producers of wine internationally but also the spread of wine drinking to at least a modest extent in most areas of the world. And with increasing economic growth in the emerging markets, it seems clear that wine consumption driven by the newly middle class in Asia and elsewhere will continue to be the story.

It is not a surprise that much of this story is driven (in my reading of the work) less by changes in wine technology itself than in overcoming the problems of transportation and storage; dealing with tariffs, taxes, and changing regulations affecting both wine growing and alcohol consumption in general; and finding ways to develop and encourage external markets in the types of wines typical of the original three top producing countries. At the same time, globalization has led to a kind of moderate smoothing of consumption patterns with traditional European nations seeming to show flat or even declining wine consumption per capita in recent years while seeing significant jumps in wine consumption in many areas where grape wine was virtually unknown a century ago. The authors tackle the issues of why areas in Europe with a potential comparative advantage in winemaking did not start producing much wine (and especially exportable wine) until quite recently, as well the problems of how national regulation has influenced in what direction wine-making evolved and the types of responses the traditional Europeans have made to the onslaught of wine from the Americas and Australia. More interestingly, even China, which had no interest in European-style grape wine till recently has begun concerted efforts – with modest success — to produce its own local grape wine. What is more notable is that — if trends continue — China looks set to become an even larger player in the wine market. Given its ambitions in other areas, can we be so sure that it will not succeed in going down the same path that Australia and the New World have already trod? Certainly developments there portend an interesting future for the world market in grape wine.

This book is a timely and welcome addition to the growing literature on the economics of the wine industry and one that is indispensable to anyone wishing a quick overview of trends throughout the world.

 
John V. C. Nye’s publications include (with Raphaël Franck and Noel Johnson) “From Internal Taxes to National Regulation: Evidence from a French Wine Tax Reform at the Turn of the Twentieth Century,” Explorations in Economic History (2014) and War, Wine, and Taxes: The Political Economy of Anglo-French Trade, 1689-1900 (Princeton University Press, 2007).

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Subject(s):Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Extractive Industries
International and Domestic Trade and Relations
Geographic Area(s):General, International, or Comparative
Time Period(s):19th Century
20th Century: Pre WWII
20th Century: WWII and post-WWII